Marijuana reduces Intelligence Quotient in adolescents

The opium poppy and marijuana have been used for millennia in traditional medicines for the relief of pain and serious illnesses. However, their potential for addiction and the social problems that they cause has led to government regulations that make the possession of these herbal products illegal.  Morphine, which is generally 8 to 14 percent of the dry weight of opium, is a powerful analgesic that is used in modern hospitals to control pain for dying patients and for patients with serious injuries.

Marijuana, a variety of hemp plant, has had a more difficult transition into the modern medicine chest because it is often abused as a recreational drug.  The active components of marijuana are called cannabinoids.  Hashish is produced from Cannabis indica plants that are traditionally cultivated in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.  Cannabidiol (CBD) is a main psychoactive component of hashish.  Marijuana is produced from Cannabis sativa and its main active component is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).


Tetrahydrocannabinol

Medical cannabis has been documented as an effective treatment for nausea, vomiting, neurogenic pain, glaucoma, and many other conditions.  Cannabidiol has also been found effective at stopping breast cancer from spreading throughout the body.  Several states, like Colorado and Washington, have legalized the purchase and possession of marijuana, but it is still banned under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Approximately 1100 metric tons of marijuana are smuggled each year from Mexico to supply the recreational drug market, and large quantities are also grown within the United States.  Young people often believe that regular marijuana use is not harmful, and many high school age students use cannabis on a daily basis.  A study at Duke University[1] followed 1037 individuals from age 13, before initiation of cannabis use, to age 38.  Neurophsychological testing found that persistent cannabis use was associated with a broad decline in cognitive function.  Impairment was concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. The changes were permanent.  Cessation of cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users.

Learn more about drug addiction

[1] Madeline H. Meier, et al., Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife, PNAS, October 2, 2012, (109) 40, E2657–E2664, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1206820109

 

Right arm hurts when coughing

I was recovering from the flu and the only remaining symptom was a stuffy and runny nose.  I thought that I was already on my way to recovery when I became aware of a combination of a dull pain and numbness in my right arm.  When I coughed, I could feel a shooting pain in my arm.  Over the next two days, the pain got worse and I could not find a comfortable position to sleep without feeling the pain in my arm.

I am not one to run to the doctor for every little pain.  With experience, I have learned that doctors will drug you so that you don’t feel the pain, but the real diagnosis could take a long time after many visits and tests.  For something that is not life-threatening, my first instinct is to search the Internet to find out what the problem could be.

My search found that the problem might be a herniated disk, a blood clot, lung cancer or other equally serious conditions.  Since my pain had just started recently, and I did not have any pain in my neck or neck movement, it was unlikely to be a problem related to the spine.  My arm was still strong but the muscle of my forearm felt a dull pain.  I decided to be though and wait at least one more day before going to the doctor.

I spent another night trying to find a comfortable position for sleeping.  At this time, I noticed that I had a muscular pain just below my right scapula.  I pressed my fingers on the spot and felt some tenderness.  Aha!  I suddenly remembered what I had done the day before the pain started.  I had helped my wife weigh her luggage on a bathroom scale.  Since the scale was not big enough to hold the luggage, I weighed myself holding the luggage and then subtracted my weight.  I remembered straining while trying to balance my weight as I held the luggage.  I did not have a blood clot or cancer after all.  It was a simple strain.

I decided not to go to the doctor.  Many years before, while walking my dog, I had suddenly felt a back pain that had sent me to the emergency room.  The doctor gave me a pain killer that made me giddy and then asked me if I knew what was wrong with me.  I said, “No,” and he replied, “I don’t know either.  Back pains are very common and they generally go away after a week or two.”  On that occasion, I spent a week in bed and the back pain was most severe when I had to use the bathroom.

The back has many muscle fibers that extend from the spine to the hips, ribs and scapula.  During your lifetime, some of these muscle fibers will tear and give you great pain, although not necessarily right away.  Seek medical attention, but be aware that even modern doctors cannot heal your back; they can only numb the pain.  My advice is: Don’t lift heavy luggage!

Exercise regularly and in moderation

 

How to cut expenses

Every year, the US congress has a difficult time deciding how to pay for the expenses that have been approved in previous sessions of congress.  The confrontations leading to the “Fiscal Cliff” are similar to the problems that a husband and a wife have in trying to meet the needs of the family while staying within the household budget.

A wife may think that it is necessary to spend $100 every three weeks, about $1700 per year, in the beauty shop.  A husband may feel that a 60-inch flat screen television with a special audio system for $2000 is necessary for entertainment.  Of course, the additional cable bills for $300 dollars a month, or $3,600 per year, are also necessary.  If the family has children, there are additional expenses for toys, school supplies and clothing which is outgrown quickly or worn out.

The only way to cut expenses is to eliminate those things that you can do without.  All the members of the family have to get together to agree on the expenses that will be eliminated.  Nobody will be happy because everybody has to sacrifice.  Just like the members of congress, everybody will grumble and complain.  If you are single, you are the only one who has to sacrifice and you have to have the discipline to stick to a budget.  Here is a list of things that you may try:

  • Stop smoking to save your health and your money.
  • Sell your car and use public transportation to go to work.
  • Take your lunch to work instead of going to a restaurant.
  • Read books from the public library instead of going to movie theaters.
  • Brew your own coffee instead of buying it in expensive coffee shops.
  • Pay down your credit card debt.  If possible, pay in full every month to avoid fees.

The most effective way to save money is to make a list of your monthly expenses and then determine which ones you can eliminate.  Looking at a complete list of expenses gives you a perspective of your spending habits.  Eliminating many small incidental expenses sometimes can save big bucks, but small cuts in recurring large expenses may provide the greatest savings.

Learn how to budget your income

The End of the World is coming

The End of the World is coming on December 21, 2012 according to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar.  Enough people are concerned about this doomsday prediction that they are taking special precautions.  In Michigan, Matt Wandrie, superintendent for Lapeer Community Schools, closed 30 Michigan schools two days early for the Christmas holidays.  There were numerous rumors circulating about potential threats of violence against students following the recent shootings that killed 20 children in Connecticut.  According to Wandrie, the ancient predictions of apocalypse were a secondary concern, but the rumblings about violent threats against schoolchildren were more serious.

Rational people should know that time does not stop just because your clock stops.  Calendars are just clocks that measure time in days instead of minutes.  So, reaching the last day of the calendar does not mean that the world will end.  It just means that you need to flip the page of the calendar to start measuring a new era.

Calendar adjustments have been made throughout the ages.  Pope Gregory XIII introduced the calendar that we now use on February 24, 1582.  The Gregorian calendar corrected an error in the Julian calendar that preceded it.  The Julian calendar considered the year to consist of 365.25 days, when in fact it is about 11 minutes shorter. This discrepancy, although small, caused the seasons to drift by about three days every 400 years. At the time of Gregory’s reform, the vernal equinox that marks springtime was already 10 days earlier than in Roman times.  The new calendar skipped 10 days to get the seasons in agreement with earlier times.  This was equivalent to setting the hands of a clock forward for a clock that had been running too slowly.  Superstitious people believed that this change of the calendar would cut their lives short by 10 days.

The end of the world has been predicted and described many times.  The Biblical story of Noah’s Ark tells how the world survived when God decided to destroy the world because of mankind’s evil deeds.  But the world did not end. The real end of the world will come in about 5000 million years when the Earth is engulfed by our Sun after it runs out of hydrogen and changes into a red giant star.  We will not be around to see that.  Before then, a supervolcanic eruption or a collision with a large asteroid would be two natural events that could wipe out mankind, but we cannot predict when that might happen.  In the meantime, we will be lucky if we are able to survive the next thousand years without becoming extinct from our own pollution and our weapons.

Learn more about the End of the World

Improve your diet for the New Year


A few changes to your diet can improve your health dramatically. The improvements will not occur suddenly, but your body will be healthier over time. If you are overweight, or if you have high cholesterol or blood pressure, a proper diet can improve your health. The important thing to remember is that you have to maintain good eating habits. You cannot eat junk food frequently and expect to improve your health. Pastries, candies and greasy food should become a very, very small part of your diet.

If you want to be healthy, you have to eat nutritious food. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The vegetables and fruits can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried, as long as they do not include added sugar or preservatives. Fruits and vegetables decrease the risks of cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease by increasing fiber and aiding weight loss. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and watercress, have been shown to protect against cancer.[1] Brightly colored vegetables and berries have phytonutrients that serve as antioxidants that enhance immune response. Blueberries and raspberries are low in calories and have many essential nutrients.

Reduce your fat intake by avoiding greasy foods like pizza, potato chips, fatty meats and cured or smoked meats. You should not avoid all fats. The body needs omega-3 fats, which are good for the brain and eyes, and can be obtained by eating fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and trout. Sunflower seeds and walnuts are vegetable sources of omega-3 fats. You should eat these foods three or four times per week to get an adequate amount of essential fatty acids.

Reduce starchy and sugary foods. Excessive consumption of carbohydrates leads to obesity and type 2 diabetes. One of the best changes that you can make to your diet is to avoid sweet soft drinks and to replace all refined flour products with whole-grain products. Try whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and grains like quinoa and bulgur wheat. These are easy to cook and can be used in salads, side dishes or main courses. The hardest thing to give up will be pastries and candies because our body has a built-in desire for sweets, but you must limit desserts to very small quantities.

Humans evolved on an omnivorous diet that included plants and animal products. Some nutrients, like Vitamin B12, can only be obtained from animal sources. Vegetarian meals that include milk and eggs can provide complete nutrition and may be an alternative way for decreasing meat in the diet. Vegetarian meals like a bowl of lentil soup with a cheese sandwich, or Cajun red beans and rice with a garden salad can be delicious and very satisfying.

To make your diet work, you have to get rid of the junk food in your kitchen. Donate to a food bank any food with hydrogenated fats, and anything high in sodium or with preservatives. Also, eliminate sodas and sugary drinks. Make room in your refrigerator for fresh produce and in your pantry for whole grain products. Start the new year with better menus for a healthier life.

[1] Keck AS, Finley JW., Cruciferous vegetables: cancer protective mechanisms of glucosinolate hydrolysis products and selenium, Integr Cancer Ther. 2004 Mar;3(1):5-12. PMID: 15035868

Flash Player spyware in your computer

The video camera and microphone of your computer can be controlled remotely by web sites if you installed the Flash player using the default settings. This is a great invasion of privacy because most computer users do not know how to change the settings to avoid this type of intrusion. In addition, the Flash player allows web sites to store information on your computer that can be used to track your activities on the web.

Adobe’s Flash Player is used extensively on web pages to provide dynamic web content. Web sites like YouTube rely on the Flash Player or Shockwave Flash plugin to display movies and video clips on a user’s terminal. In January of 2010, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would not support Flash because it was so buggy that it caused most of the crashes in Mac computers, but the Flash player is a very common component of Windows computers. Beginning with Flash Player 10.1, the Flash Player integrates with web browsers to automatically clear stored data in accordance with the browser’s private browsing settings.

When installing Flash, the first concern is that the download screen has a checkbox for McAfee security scan that is checked by default. If you click the “Download now” button without unchecking the box, you are going to end up with extra software in your computer that you may not want and will have to uninstall later.

Once you install the Flash player, you have to set the privacy settings. Open a web page like YouTube.com that uses Flash and right click on a Flash object. A pop-up panel like the one below appears. Click on Global Settings…

If you don’t want to be tracked through the Flash player, click on the option to block all sites from storing information. The interface may give you a warning that some sites may not work properly. Click OK to set your choice.

Next, click on the “Camera and Mic” tab and set the option to block all sites from using the camera and microphone. If you will only be using the Flash player to watch videos, there is no reason to allow any site to eavesdrop or spy on you.

The following link invokes the Flash Player settings manager for your computer with the web interface below. Needless to say, you have to go through this procedure for each computer on which you have installed the Flash player.

Global Privacy Settings panel

Scientific Research in Washington DC

Andrew Carnegie founded the Carnegie Institution of Washington as an organization for scientific discovery in 1902.  The organization changed its name in 2007 to the Carnegie Institution for Science to reflect the fact that scientists work not only in Washington, but in six scientific departments on the West and East Coasts of the United States.  The Geophysical Laboratory and the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism are both located on a beautiful campus at 5241 Broad Branch Road, NW in Washington, D.C.

The Department of Terrestrial Magnetism was founded in 1904 to map the geomagnetic field of the Earth. This goal was accomplished by 1929, and the focus of the department’s research shifted toward understanding the Earth and its place in the universe.  Today, the department has an interdisciplinary team of geophysicists, geochemists, astronomers, astrophysicists, cosmochemists and planetary scientists.

Dr. Linda Elkins-Tanton is the director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. Dr. Elkins-Tanton conducts research on the evolution of terrestrial planets, and the relationships between Earth and life on Earth.  One of Dr. Elkins-Tanton’s latest projects analyzed the relationships between large volcanic provinces and global extinction events, focusing on the gaseous emissions of sulfur, chlorine, and fluorine from the Siberian flood basalts and their possible contribution to the end-Permian extinction 251 million years ago.  In the above photograph, Dr. Elkins-Tanton introduces a lecture on the use of pressure to make novel materials by Dr. Timothy A. Strobel of the Geophysical Laboratory.

Dr. Strobel answers questions after his presentation

The Geophysical Laboratory was founded in 1905 to examine the physics and chemistry of Earth’s deep interior. The laboratory is a world-renowned center for the study of rock compositions. The laboratory’s research in high-pressure and high-temperature physics has produced many scientific publications in both Earth and material sciences.

Dr. Russell J. Hemley is the director of the Geophysical Laboratory.  His research program has expanded to include high-pressure experimental and theoretical studies in condensed matter physics, Earth and planetary science, and materials science.

The Geophysical Laboratory and the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism host a series of Neighborhood Lectures at 5251 Broad Branch Road, NW, Washington, DC 20015.  The lectures are open to the public and provide information about the research programs.  Light refreshments are served after the lectures.  Click this link for more information about the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Learn about the Timeline of the Earth

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Salmon SandwichThe consumption of fish has played an important role in the evolution of humans.  The human brain consists approximately of 60% fat.  Fatty acids called ALA, DHA and EPA are concentrated in cell walls and the myelin sheaths of the neurons.  These long-chain fatty acids have an unsaturated double bond in the third carbon from the end, and thus are known chemically as omega-3 fatty acids.  These fats are essential for good health and must be included in the diet because the body cannot create them from other fats.  Some vegetable sources, such as walnuts and flax seed, contain ALA, but fish oil is the best source of DHA and EPA.  The body can convert ALA to DHA and EPA, but not very efficiently.

Omega-3 fatty acids are components of all cell membranes and a deficiency of these essential fatty acids can cause symptoms such as fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, depression, and bad circulation.  Fish oil supplementation is generally safe when taken in low doses (3 grams or less per day), but there are some safety concerns when fish oil is taken in high doses because it may keep blood from clotting and can increase the chance of bleeding, particularly in combination with anticoagulants and blood thinners.

It is always better to get nutrients from foods rather than from supplements.  Natural foods, such as salmon, herring or other fish, have the essential fatty acids, but they also have protein, vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy diet.  The picture above shows an open-faced sandwich with slices of smoked salmon on sour dough bread spread with a teaspoon of mustard, and garnished with slices of avocado and chopped dill.  This is a delicious way of getting your omega-3 fatty acids.

Learn more about Fatty Acids

How To Get Ripped Abs

Most people would like to have a well toned body with ripped abs to show off at the beach. Unfortunately, our modern way of life is very sedentary and we eat too much, so we are generally overweight. We know that diet and exercise require perseverance and sacrifice. This is why when a TV advertisement offers a device that in 3 minutes can give the results of 100 sit-ups we are tempted to buy it even for $200 dollars or more, especially when the device is promoted by a good-looking fitness model like Jennifer Nicole Lee who lost over 70 pounds after bearing two children. The Ab Circle Pro is a fiberglass disk with handlebars and knee rests that can be used for doing pushups, swinging from side to side, and doing leg squeezes. The TV infomercials promoting the Ab Circle Pro ran more than 10,000 times between March 2009 and May 2010. One of the things that the TV commercials did no mention was that Jennifer Lee was already slim when she started promoting the exercise device.


Jennifer Nicole Lee and the Ab Circle Pro

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is a consumer protection agency, charged the companies and individuals which promoted the Ab Circle Pro with making unsubstantiated claims that the device could cause rapid and substantial weight loss and that three minutes of exercise on the Ab Circle Pro was equal to 100 sit-ups. The FTC filed a civil lawsuit against four companies promoting the device: Fitness Brands Inc., Fitness Brands International Inc., Direct Holdings Americas Inc. and Direct Entertainment Media Group Inc.

The FTC proved that it was deceptive to promise that people could lose 10 pounds in two weeks by using the abdominal exercise device for only three minutes a day. In the settlements, the companies agreed to pay as much as $25 million in refunds to customers for deceptive advertising. Michael Casey and David Brodess, two executives who control the companies, agreed to pay a total $1.2 million. Under terms of the settlements, none of the defendants admitted wrongdoing.

The FTC warned marketers to refrain from promising magic solutions to health problems, and advised consumers to carefully evaluate advertising claims for weight-loss products because weight loss requires hard work.

If you bought the Ab Circle Pro and got ripped off instead of getting ripped abs, you can try to get your money refunded by applying through the Federal Trade Commission web site:
FTC Ab Circle Pro Refunds

Learn More About Exercise

HTML web pages for mobile devices

The iPhone and other smart phones have become very popular because in addition to making telephone calls they can also access the Internet, play music, take photographs and record videos.  Tablets like the iPad are also increasing in popularity because they are lightweight and eliminate the need for a keyboard, but they can perform many of the functions of a computer.  Before tablets were introduced, “mobile devices” were telephones with small screens that could only handle small web pages.  Web programmers were encouraged to redirect traffic from mobile devices to a mobile subdomain containing streamlined web pages that would load fast and format data for the small screens.

Telephone manufacturers reacted to the need for accessing the Internet by introducing bigger screens with higher resolution and by developing pinch-in and pinch-out zoom gestures to make the text more readable.  The variety of mobile devices and the way in which the pixels of web pages are mapped to the screens has made it difficult to design optimum mobile web pages, particularly with the introduction of tablets with displays equivalent to a laptop or a desktop computer.

The increasing number of tablets means that it may not be appropriate to automatically redirect mobile devices to web pages for small screens.  A more practical approach is to let the user decide which format to access by providing a button such as the following that is displayed close to the top of the page for mobile devices only.


The following code sets up a non-display <div> element containing the image.  The JavaScript code that follows checks the screen width and the userAgent to allow the display of the button for screens with a width smaller than 500 pixels or for web browsers used by mobile devices.  The BMI web page (http://www.scientificpsychic.com/health/Body-Mass-Index-BMI.html) uses this code. View the page with a desktop computer and with a mobile device to see this technique in action.

<div id="mobile" style="display:none;">
  <a href="http://m.domain.com/webpage.html">
    <img src="mobile-page.gif" width="100" height="71" alt="view mobile page"/>
  </a>
</div>

<script type="text/javascript"><!--
if (screen.width < 500 || 
    navigator.userAgent.match(/Android/i) || 
    navigator.userAgent.match(/iPhone/i) || 
    navigator.userAgent.match(/BlackBerry/i) || 
    navigator.userAgent.match(/webOS/i) || 
    navigator.userAgent.match(/iPod/i) ) {
      document.getElementById('mobile').style.display = "block";
}
//-->
</script>